WOODSIDE -- If you've ever hiked a trail on the San Mateo County coast, chances are you have benefited in some way from the work of Ollie Mayer.

Mayer fought timber companies to preserve redwood groves, helped found Pescadero Creek County Park, and mentored scores of budding environmentalists during several decades as an activist with the Sierra Club and other organizations. A tenacious protector of the natural resources on the coast, Mayer died last week of heart failure at the age of 94.

Olive Hendricks grew up in New Jersey and New York before attending Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she was one of the first women to graduate with an engineering degree. It was there that she discovered her love of the outdoors. She met her husband, Henry Mayer, while on a solo exploration of the Rocky Mountains in 1941.

Henry first saw Ollie, their daughter Judy O'Brien said, when she strolled into a lodge on a rainy day in Estes Park, Colo. Undeterred by the weather, she declared with a smile, "I want to go on a hike!"

"He said he fell in love with her instantly," recalled O'Brien, 62.

The couple married and moved west, settling in Woodside. Henry Mayer became a prominent physician, helping to found Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City.

Ollie Mayer started her own machine shop, then founded a science-education company that produced hands-on kits for schools. She eventually sold the business, turning her full attention to environmental causes in the late 1960s.


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Mayer started fighting more than 40 years ago to prevent Caltrans from building a freeway bypass at Devils Slide, promoting tunnels instead. Caltrans finally opened the Devils Slide tunnels Tuesday, just days after her death.

"She was visionary and persistent," recalled Lennie Roberts, who worked with Mayer on the Devils Slide campaign beginning in the early 1970s. "She was very smart."

Mayer was a longtime leader of the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club. In 1983 the national Sierra Club recognized her with its special achievement award.

The family will hold a private ceremony in May for Mayer, who is survived by two children, Judy O'Brien and Robert Mayer, and four grandchildren. Donations can be made in her memory to the Committee for Green Foothills, Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club or the Peninsula Open Space Trust.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.